Alabama Joint Custody When Parents Live Far Apart

By Jim Thomas

Before 2012, Alabama law gave family law judges a considerable amount of leeway in determining what type of custody arrangements were in the best interest of the child. While the law favored joint custody, unless the parents agreed on a different arrangement, judges could consider a number of factors that might make a joint custody arrangement unfeasible. One factor was the physical location of each parent. However, when the Alabama legislature adopted the 2012 Alabama Children's Family Act, the geographical proximity of the parents was eliminated as a factor in awarding custody. Whether the 2012 Act is an improvement is a matter of debate.

Before 2012, Alabama law gave family law judges a considerable amount of leeway in determining what type of custody arrangements were in the best interest of the child. While the law favored joint custody, unless the parents agreed on a different arrangement, judges could consider a number of factors that might make a joint custody arrangement unfeasible. One factor was the physical location of each parent. However, when the Alabama legislature adopted the 2012 Alabama Children's Family Act, the geographical proximity of the parents was eliminated as a factor in awarding custody. Whether the 2012 Act is an improvement is a matter of debate.

Old Law

Under the old law in Alabama, state policy favored joint custody in order to ensure "that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children..." However, Section 530 -3-150, which has been deleted from the 2012 Act, also stated, "Joint custody does not necessary equal physical custody." So a judge could order joint custody, and also order that a mother living in Seattle with a father in Alabama retain physical custody during the school year. As a result, the child would live with his mother for at least eight or nine months each year.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

New Law

The section of the old statute that allowed judges to consider the physical proximity of the parents to each other as a factor in their custody decisions is no longer Alabama law. Absent a joint custody agreement by the parents that includes an unequal physical custody arrangement, a judge is now required to order joint custody with an equal amount of parenting time, regardless of where the parent lives, unless one parent is ruled to be unfit.

Parenting Plans

The 2012 Act requires a divorcing couple to submit a parenting plan to the court. It must include provisions that designate which parent "may exercise primary authority in making childrearing decisions." If the child is living in Seattle with his mother for eight or nine months of the year, for example, the agreement needs to include provisions that spell out who will make major life decisions for the child at designated times, such as which school and church he will attend.

Best Interest of the Child

The new law restricts a judge's discretion when parents live far apart. If the parents can't agree on a parenting plan, the judge has no option but to order equal parenting time, regardless of the logistics. This can result in a situation where a child spends one calendar year with the mother in Seattle and the next with the father in Alabama. The child would have to change homes and schools every year. As a result, an article in "The Huntsville Times, states that critics of the new law believe it may work in the best interest of the parents but not necessarily in the best interest of the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Do They Look for in Custody Cases in Pennsylvania?

References

Related articles

Laws for Divorced Parents With Children in Alabama

Creating parenting arrangements that support the welfare of minor children is an important part of the divorce process in Alabama. By law, judges must make custody decisions based on the child's best interest, which can impact the type of custody awarded and the ability of a parent to change a child's residence.

What a Judge Looks at in Custody Hearing in Illinois

Custody disputes may be a highly contentious and emotional issue for recently divorced parents. In making a custody determination, Illinois courts look at evidence that shows what is in the best interest of the child. To help in this determination, the court may appoint individuals to represent the child's interests. However, custody orders may not be permanent, and either parent has the right to request modification of a custody order if the circumstances change.

A Tennessee Divorce: Can an Abusive Husband Get Custody of the Children?

Tennessee law favors joint custody when couples divorce, but Section 4:1.04 of the state's code instructs judges that "in domestic abuse cases, joint custody is inappropriate." If a judge follows this rule and does not order joint custody after an abusive marriage, it's unlikely that he would give sole custody to the parent who made joint custody inappropriate through his abusive behavior. This would effectively reward him for committing the abuse.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

The Clarke County, Alabama Law on Joint Custody

For parents going through a divorce, the custody arrangement of any minor children is of fundamental importance. In ...

Illinois Custody Laws After Divorce

For married couples who no longer get along, a divorce may be the best option. However, parents have an obligation to ...

Standards for Deciding Child Custody in Georgia

Custody determinations represent an additional step in the divorce process for parents of minor children. Georgia ...

How Is Child Custody Decided In Divorce?

Every state defers to a concept called the “best interests of the child” when deciding custody issues. But ...

Browse by category